New York, March 21, 2014—The U.S. government has nominated Columbia Law School Professor Sarah H. Cleveland to serve as an independent expert on the Human Rights Committee. The United Nations treaty body monitors state implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the two multilateral human rights treaties that comprise the “International Bill of Rights.” The United States completed its own periodic appearance before the committee last week.
Cleveland is a leading expert in international and comparative human rights law, who also teaches and writes in the areas of international humanitarian law, national security law, and the constitutional law of U.S. foreign relations. The committee’s 18 independent experts in human rights are nominated and elected by the more than 165 states parties to the multilateral treaty. The committee election will take place on June 24 in New York.
Professor Sarah H. Cleveland
If elected, Cleveland, the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and faculty co-director of the Law School’s Human Rights Institute, would serve a four-year term. The committee holds three month-long meetings each year to review state implementation of the multilateral treaty. Cleveland would succeed Gerald L. Neuman, formerly a member of the Columbia law faculty, in the position also once held by the late Louis Henkin, the renowned Columbia Law School professor who is credited with founding the study of human rights law.
“The Human Rights Committee is one of the premier international bodies responsible for interpreting international human rights law and promoting state compliance,” said Cleveland. “I have long followed the committee’s work as a scholar, as a teacher, and as a human rights lawyer inside and outside of government. It would be a great privilege to contribute to the committee’s work, and I look forward to discussing my qualifications with states in the period before the election.”
Cleveland’s scholarship has often focused on the interface between international human rights and national law. She also has long been involved in implementing human rights obligations in practice. From 2009 to 2011, she was the Counselor on International Law to the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, where she helped supervise the department’s legal work relating to human rights and international justice, among other responsibilities.
“Sarah has all the virtues that are needed for the varied roles of a Human Rights Committee member,” said Neuman, now a professor at Harvard Law School. “She has wide knowledge and broad experience in the field, dedication to the promotion of human rights, superb legal skills, and practical understanding of how governments work,” he said. “She also has talent at being as tactful or blunt as the occasion requires. She would be an extremely valuable member for the Human Rights Committee.”
In 2010, Cleveland was appointed by the United States government to serve as the U.S. expert on the Council of Europe’s European Commission on Democracy Through Law. Popularly known as the Venice Commission, that independent expert body advises states on the compliance of their laws and constitutions with fundamental rights. Cleveland is a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law and the Co-Coordinating Reporter overseeing preparation of a major treatise on U.S. foreign relations law for the American Law Institute.
Cleveland recently has helped spearhead efforts by Columbia Law School and Columbia University to promote democratization and the rule of law in Myanmar. She has testified before Congress on U.S. terrorism detention policy, the relevance of international law in constitutional interpretation, and the interdiction of Haitian refugees, and has provided evidence to the U.K. Parliament. She has advised the government of Bahrain on human rights matters and has participated as an independent legal expert in U.S. government dialogues with China. As an expert working with the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project Working Group in 2003, she helped draft a labor code for post-Taliban Afghanistan.
A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, Cleveland holds a baccalaureate degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Cleveland has previously taught at the Harvard, Michigan and University of Texas law schools and at Oxford University. She joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2007.
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